Tuesday Tips: Tackling the Garage

The garage is one of those rooms that's meant for one thing but ends up being something else. Aren't garages for cars and lawn equipment? But we stuff all sorts of other things in there, including old furniture, broken appliances, boxes of paperwork and old magazines. There are many ways to transform the space, either as a liveable room or a place to park your wheels. I recently talked to some local experts for some tips on how to transform this multi-functional space. Here are their tips:

Tip #1: Before even pulling out a hammer, think about what purpose you want the garage to serve. Some of the options include making it a place for lots of storage, including your car, or a liveable space like a family room, in-law suite or laundry room/mudroom.

Tip #2: If you're transforming the space to be a little more functional for storage, be sure to buy products made for the garage. Shelving should be a little more heavy duty. Appliance manufacturers like Whirlpool even sell products made for the garage such as a refrigerator on wheels for mobility and with extra space for frozen foods. "Buy good products from reputable dealers who will stand behind them," says Bob Ford, president of Garage Design Source in Sterling and author of the Garage Guy blog. "Most dealers will sell you product and give you tips for installing it yourself."

Tip #3: Look at the garage as a way to put an addition on your house without the expense of actually adding a whole new room to the house. Just make sure you invest the money into making the room look less like a garage, including changing the facade to match the rest of the house, taking out the old driveway leading up to the garage, having the garage floor raised up to the rest of the house and insulating the walls. "You'll want to make it feel like an extension of the house," says Rick Matus, senior associate vice president and director of design/build for Case Design based in Bethesda.

Tip #4: If you're considering replacing your garage with a liveable room, consult with a Realtor who knows your neighborhood well to make sure you won't lose some value in your house by taking out a garage. An ideal situation would be to build a detached garage if you have the land after replacing an attached garage with a liveable room.

Tip #5: If the idea of giving up your garage's storage space scares you but you still really want that new family room, consider keeping the garage door and about five feet of space for storage and then have a wall built to separate that small storage space from the liveable space. Keeping the garage door in place will also save money by not having to build a new facade for that part of the house.

Tip #6: If all you want is a place for your car and some storage, do a complete purge. Take a weekend to pull everything out of the garage and make three piles. One for those things you want to keep, those things that you can donate and those things that can be thrown away. Sometimes just going through that process will eliminate a lot of stuff and make your space look like new.

Tip #7: One way to save on transforming the space is to hire a contractor to the heavy work but ask if you can do all the purchasing of cabinets and other materials needed for the job. "The more tasks the homeowner takes on, the cheaper it is, but don't scrimp on products," says Ford.

What have you done with your garage? Have any ideas for transforming a garage on a budget? Post your wise advice below.

Moving on to other shopping topics... Is your wallet busting at the seams with store cards? I'm talking those cards you present everytime you make a purchase at a particular store. Seems like every type of business has them these days from grocery stores to card shops. Who has the best ones and which ones are a waste of time? I'll be tackling this topic this month so please send me your thoughts at shoptoit@washingtonpost.com.

By Tania Anderson |  September 16, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Tuesday Tips
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We are fortunate to have a relatively large 2-car garage, but there never seems to be enough space. One 'feature', courtesy of the previous owner, are built-in floor-to-ceiling shelves on one side which really end up becoming a dumping ground for all sorts of stuff that no one claims, but cannot be disposed of.

Over the years, however, I have been creating organization piece by piece. Along one side wall I installed heavy peg board which is used to contain most of my yard and hand tools and assorted other small items. Home Depot and Lowe's have a great assortment of hooks and other hardware which can be used for everything from screwdrivers and hammers to extension cords, string trimmers and long, awkward items like skis and kayak paddles.

I installed sheetrock on the back wall and painted it white to make the garage look brighter. We have a collection of tall and short cabinets from Target which are used for everything from extra pantry space to storing seldom-used cooking items (e.g., lobster pot). The rest of the wall is finished with Elfa shelving from The Container Store. It is not cheap, but it is very flexible and I can easily work around the cabinets. Now there is very little on the floor.

The last thing we did, which I admit is a bit of a luxury, is coat the floor. I was going to use a DIY product, but we had a $300 Home Depot gift card and decided to have them finish it with a heavy duty colored rubber epoxy. It does a great job of keeping the dirt under control and is very easy to clean with a hose twice a year.

I figure that we have spent about $2000 over the past 10 years, but I believe that it has made a huge difference. Everything has a place and when we needed to store some furniture for our daughter's college apartment it really was not an issue.

Posted by: More Cowbell | September 16, 2008 12:53 PM

The hard and fast rule I follow in garage storage is the following:

1. nothing on the floor, unless there is a shelf above it.

2. nothing comes into the garage for storage, unless something else is disposed of first.

3. use every conceivable wall and even above ceiling space available for storage.

4. by all means keep it neat, clean, and accessible in orde to park vehicles.

The thing that bothers me the most is seeing cars parked on the driveway and the garage bays filled with junk.

Posted by: olneydude | September 16, 2008 1:03 PM

Nobody in NOVA cares about article such as this; it's just easier to park outside, than to throw away that box of clothes now. It makes much more sense to store it until it's good & musty, for 25 years, and THEN throw it away.

Posted by: Crickets Chirp | September 17, 2008 6:27 PM

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